A group representing LGBT Catholics in London, England, sent a report to the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales just before Christmas, which was their assessment of pastoral outreach to LGBT Catholics in the city’s Archdiocese of Westminster.
The LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council wrote to Elizabeth Davies, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, as a response to the Conference’s request for feedback from the laity in advance of the World Synod on Marriage and Family Life at the Vatican later this year.
The LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council used to be known as the Soho Masses Pastoral Council. Their name was changed when their bi-monthly Mass was moved from London’s Soho neighborhood to the Mayfair neighborhood.
The group identified four areas of concern. Below are excerpted highlights from the letter:
1) Parish life:
“In the vast majority of Catholic parishes in the UK there is no dedicated pastoral care of LGBT Catholics. Typical Catholic parishes are very unlikely to mention any pastoral care in the parish newsletter, or even to recognise the needs of LGBT Catholics as a group. By contrast, there are often groups dedicated to various language and ethnic groups, Justice and Peace, Mother and Children groups, etc., all of which is laudable. The effect on the ordinary LGBT Catholic is to feel largely invisible and unrecognised at best, or at worst to feel excluded, merely the subject of distant, hierarchical pronouncements regarding LGBT people as if they do not belong to the community of the faithful. On a day to day basis, in the parish, there is fear of visibly recognising and catering pastorally to LGBT Catholic people.”
2) Personal harm caused by church language:
“The Church teaching on LGBT Catholics with the use of terms such as “objectively disordered” together with a widespread lack of pastoral care has made many LGBT Catholics feel deeply unwelcome in the Catholic church in which they were brought up and leads in many cases to feelings of deep distress. It is clearly wrong that God’s baptised find themselves in such in an isolated position, making it so much more difficult to practise their faith on their own, away from a supporting and nurturing community. This leads in many cases to suicide, depression and mental, physical and emotional problems. This is a very grave responsibility for the bishops to address. We therefore ask that a comprehensive pastoral process be developed to ensure that LGBT Catholics are supported as much as possible in their faith and life journey, which is a prime responsibility of the Church. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40) “
3) The need for dialogue and healing:
“There needs to be a deep process of dialogue and listening between the hierarchy and the laity. This questionnaire is one attempt to do this and we applaud it. However, unless it is accompanied by a lived experience at the parish and diocesan level between laity, priests and bishops, it will not bear as much fruit as it can. There are many wounds to heal within the Church, as Pope Francis has said, and we wish to deepen the process that LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council has started with the support of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and support this development at a national level.”
4) Steadfastness as LGBT Catholics:
”We believe that God’s grace continues to support LGBT Catholics in their faith journey, despite the many obstacles, lack of support and ignorance that many of us experience in our local churches. In our community, we have a number of people from other Christian denominations interested in becoming Catholics. Despite the vitriol sometimes levelled at LGBT people by some members of the Catholic hierarchy, we still witness other LGBT Christians being drawn to become Catholics. We believe that this is a sign from God that He does indeed call all to believe and live with Him in community.”
You can read the entire text of the letter here.
Though written from just one nation, I think this document expresses very succinctly many of the longings of LGBT Catholics world-wide. I am grateful for our friends in London for putting together such a pointed and poignant text, and for speaking their truth to the hierarchy. May their words soften hearts, open minds, and encourage leaders to seek further information and testimony from LGBT people.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry